MEPS from cooler wine regions vote against sugar ban
The Germans and Austrians have shown their opposition to the EU wine reform’s proposed ban on adding sugar. At a meeting of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee last week, MEPS voted against the prohibition, which would stop winemakers in cooler parts of Europe increasing the alcohol content of their wines through the addition of sugar.
However, contrary to what has been reported in the press, this vote has no formal influence on the final decision. Until the new EU treaty comes into force, it is the Council of Ministers, made up of farm ministers of the 27 member states, which has the final decision-making power.
Proposals were put forward by the European Commission earlier this year to ban adding sugar to wine in a bid to help cut excess wine production. The planned reform would still allow winemakers to enrich – or chaptalise, as it’s known – but only by using significantly more expensive grape-juice concentrate. The EU also wants to reduce the amount wine producers can increase alcohol levels by chaptalisation from 3.5% to 2%. But growers in the more northern areas feel such moves favour wine producers in the south who get more sun.
As a northerly wine region, the UK sees the vote against a sugar ban as very positive. Mike Roberts, chairman of English Wine Producers, told ThirtyFifty, ‘We are very worried about the banning of sugar. Concentrated grape must will cost lots more than sugar and there is also a worry that there won’t be enough of it. We are also concerned that, while sugar is a non-flavour-changing substance, grape juice has flavour characteristics, which could influence the taste of a wine.’
He added that lowering the percentage by which producers can increase alcohol levels could cause problems in years with bad weather. He cited 2000 when the whole of the south east was decimated by rain around harvest time, which caused the grapes to swell and the sugar in them to be watered down. In such instances, he said, producers would need to be able to chaptalise to the current maximum level otherwise they wouldn’t be able to make wine at all.
Now everyone must wait for the decisive meeting of the farm ministers, which starts in Brussels on 18 December, to see what will happen. However, Michael Mann, the EU spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Development – Wine, told ThirtyFifty that, ‘The Commission and Council will obviously take the Parliament's views extremely seriously.’